There were a lot of Army fans who were very nervous about how things would play out on Saturday. After being pushed to the brink and underperforming against a feisty Citadel squad, how would the Black Knights fare on the road against a revamped UTSA team and without their top two quarterbacks?
Well, Tyhier Tyler and Cade Ballard gave us their answer. Tyler and Ballard rotated under center and led Army to a 28-16 victory over the Roadrunners, giving the Black Knights their first 5-1 start since 1996. Not bad for two guys who were both seeing their first significant career playing time.
After stymieing UTSA on the game’s opening drive, Ballard, a freshman, got things started for Army. On just the fifth play of the drive, Anthony Adkins bounced off the pile at the line of scrimmage and broke off a 66-yard touchdown run.
After trading punts, the Roadrunners managed to draw blood with a 50-yard field goal from Hunter Duplessis. Following another round of punts, Army broke through again on a lumbering touchdown run from Jakobi Buchanan to go up 14-3. The Roadrunners managed to drive down for a touchdown of their own to make things 14-10 before the half on a goal line pass from Lowell Narcisse to Zakhari Franklin.
Tyhier Tyler then extended Army’s lead early in the third quarter, marching the Black Knights 70 yards for another touchdown, including a 37-yard run to the house for Tyler himself. UTSA responded immediately with a touchdown drive of their own, this time with quarterback Frank Harris connecting with Franklin. However, Army blocked the PAT, keeping a four-point lead over the Roadrunners.
Not to be outdone, the Black Knights fired back on a short touchdown drive with Ballard hitting Camden Harrison on a 53-yard completion (plus extra yardage for a roughing the passer call on UTSA). Ballard then ran in his own touchdown from five yards out on the next play to make it 28-16 in Army’s favor.
The game was far from over, and the Army defense stepped up big when it counted. UTSA turned the ball over on downs just for the Black Knights to fumble — giving it right back to the Roadrunners with time to still make things interesting. However, the Army defense forced another turnover on downs to ice the game.
Holding the Line
While statistically, it might not have been the best game for Nate Woody’s crew on defense, it certainly looked a lot better than the numbers. Army didn’t force the Roadrunners into any turnovers and came up with just one sack while UTSA managed to put up 383 yards of offense. Still, they did make UTSA punt four times and forced them into two turnover-on-downs when the game really mattered.
From watching the game, it seemed as though Army’s defense was constantly hurrying and harrying both Narcisse and Harris, and their only rushing yardage seemed to come once the pocket collapsed.
Of note, the Army defense also held UTSA RB Sincere McCormick (the nation’s leading rusher) to 133 yards on 18 carries and no touchdowns. The Black Knights’ bent for McCormick, but they didn’t break.
Jon Rhattigan led the unit with 11 tackles.
Depth on Display
At times, Army’s offense looked a little off-sync with Tyler and Ballard rotating back and forth under center, but both of them performed extremely well in their first significant game action. Tyler ran for 95 yards and a score on 19 carries, while Ballard rushed for a touchdown and completed a pass for a big chunk of yards. For a freshman and sophomore who weren’t expected to play this season, that’s not bad.
Adkins also made some noise thanks to his huge touchdown run to start the game. He finished with 101 yards and a score on just eight carries. While the Black Knights were surely glad to see Artice Hobbs and Sandon McCoy back in the lineup, it was the young guys stepping up on offense that really stood out against the Roadrunners. And great credit to offensive coordinator Brent Davis for mixing things up to distribute the ball and finding ways to extend drives. In all, eight different players logged rushes for Army.
The Black Knights face another FCS side at home on Saturday, welcoming Mercer to West Point. Another victory would make them 6-1 on the season.